Regeneration.

cost-cutting, window-dressing, profit-making

at the price of x number of lives

a tower block in flames, people stuck inside

tick tock

a tragedy in waiting

is this is the limit?

people shunted around, squeezed, left in the dark

broken window theory

the cost of living

safety, security, quality, durability

The specialists know best.

lights switched off

in need of repair

“we need a good narrative”

cost-analysis

breathing new life

in-keeping with the area

REVITALISATION.

“That’s a nice colour!”

tick boxes

deadlines

“.. move that here .. raise that there ..”

viability

RISK.

compliance; non-compliance

“Speak in a language they’ll understand.”

daylight, fresh air, great views

aspirational living

phone calls unanswered

questions ignored

generous, robust, clean, durable

decoration

to stand the test of time

Fit for Habitation?

too much trouble

changing perceptions

breathing new life

transformation

adding value

too much, too little

value engineering

We know what’s best.

who cries for help

who cleans up

who holds each other in their arms

tick tock

who is responsible

“Who is liable?”

alarm bells ringing

who has to fight for justice

who has to resist being moved on

demolition

new build

cost-cutting, window-dressing, profit-making

at the price of x number of lives

tick tock

no alarm bells ringing

The blood is on our hands.

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/kctmo-playing-with-fire/

Justice for Grenfell

 

Who does RIBA represent?

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“2.1 The objects of the Royal Institute are the advancement of Architecture and the promotion of the acquirement of the knowledge of the Arts and Sciences connected therewith” –  II Objects and Powers, RIBA Charter and Byelaws, 1971.

The Royal Institute of British Architects is not a union, nor an ethical regulator. It represents the concerns of its wealthiest members, whilst avoiding directly addressing the real issues that face our cities today. In the public document ‘Housing Matters: #20ways to tackle the housing crisis’, RIBA recommends that local government should act as private developer, through Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs).  More and more councils are trying to pass off high-risk SPVs as a easy solution to their ‘housing crises’. To take one example, ‘Homes for Lambeth‘ is the entity that is, as only one of its major regeneration projects, driving the demolition of 6 major estates – Central Hill (PRP Architects), Cressingham Gardens, Fenwick (Karakusevic Carson Architects), Knight’s Walk (Mae Architects), South Lambeth (PTE Architects) and Westbury (Metropolitan Workshop with Maccreanor Lavington Architects) – under the tagline of “More and Better Homes”.

RIBA doesn’t protect Workers’ Rights

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Above: The RIBA stipulate in their Chartered Practice Criteria that practices must pay the appropriate Living Wage. If you work full-time (40 hours a week) in London you are therefore entitled to a minimum £20,280 per annum, and must be paid or compensated by time in lieu for any overtime worked.

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The information provided by RIBA to employees and employers about pay and regulation of hours is scattered between documents and unclear.

On the RIBA Appointments Salary guide 2017 the recommended salary for a Part-I architectural assistant is between £18,000 – £22,000 . This range falls below the London Living Wage if you work 40 hours a week. A typical contract will stipulate a 37.5 – 40 hour week, but most employers and RIBA’s pay-scale do not recognise the industry’s reliance on regular unpaid overtime. The Living Wage Foundation advises that in order to qualify as a Living Wage Employer, as RIBA state all practices must be to be Chartered, then overtime must be properly reimbursed.

RIBA: Podium for Destruction

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The RIBA consistently platform the practices that are carrying out the estate destruction which leads so many to be displaced.

example 1, example 2, example 3, example 4, example 5

The RIBA repeatably ignore the context to the designs that they so enthusiastically  reward. Their latest exhibition, Social Housing: Definitions and Exemplars is representative of RIBA’s default stance – to produce superficial gestures towards social awareness and engagement, without serious engagement with current issues that affect both people who work in architecture and people who are impacted by architectural work.

Historic Complaints Still Relevant

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The Architects Revolutionary Council were a group of students fighting the same RIBA in the 1970s. What has changed in 40 years? Sadly many of the criticisms made by ARC sadly are still relevant today.

We want to form a union of architectural workers that can work together to fight for both better working conditions and a better architectural industry.

 

 

DEMANDS

We have three immediate concrete demands:

  • Regulation of working hours, pay and treatment: paid overtime, London Living Wage paid to anyone working in an architectural office from the cleaner to the director, distribute tasks more fairly, do not contribute to work-horse culture
  • No discrimination based on class, gender, ability or race: meaningful representation in and across positions of power, no tokenism, no wage-gap based on nationality, residency-status or gender, no university-snobbery. There must be no discrimination for both employees and the people who live in the urban contexts we work within.
  • No demolition: Refuse to engage in briefs where demolition has been pre-ordained by the client. We must be vocal in arguing for an architecture which is not destructive. Do not submit to the colonial, capitalist mindframe of viewing estates as brownfield or ripe for urban redevelopment and ‘improvement’.

 

Followed by our wider vision for the architectural profession:

  • Transparency: don’t disguise schemes as community led when they are developer-driven, be up-front about where the money comes from and who has control, publish company pay data and fee structures. If compromises are to be honestly made then all the information has to be on the table.
  • Long-term thinking: don’t build for future demolition, empty neighbourhoods and systemic pollution. Viability calculations and diagrammatic urban critique (mapping transport connections and ground-floor uses) are meaningless assessments of neighbourhoods that don’t factor in the things that make cities home.
  • A united professional conscience that abides by an ethical charter: as an industry we have more strength to face up to other pressures on development. If we organise we can say no to developers, planners, and profiteers. We need to create workplace safety in order to have a productive dialogue about what we are doing, and for who.
  • Design for people over profit: centre those who are most affected by what we build. Talk to people and give them a platform. Challenge briefs which squeeze out human life in favour of an imagined bottom line.

Mayor’s Guide to Estate Regeneration

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At work we observe firsthand how London’s “housing crisis” has been constructed with policy that insidiously aims to exacerbate land values – ultimately, through the transfer of public housing stock to private developers (including Special Purpose Vehicles set up by councils themselves).

The GLA has created a step-by-step guide for local authorities to undertake quick and easy estate regeneration – as a demonstration of the Mayor’s commitment to “Homes for Londoners” – in the form of the Mayor’s (Draft) Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration. In a similar fashion to the way that residents are consulted on the demolition of their homes, the 40-page document has been available to view and comment on since mid-December.

Despite our views on the the illusion of democracy, it is important that the public make their voices heard. You have until Tuesday, March 14th to send your comments, here. To ease the process, we have gone through the document to make a few points clearer.

Other responses:

For in-depth analysis, please see the comprehensive ASH Good Practice Guide to Resisting Estate Demolition, produced by Architects for Social Housing. Also see this critique.]

Sian Berry: My full response to the draft guidance says it is worse than useless – it rips up the Mayor’s manifesto promise that ‘estate regeneration only takes place where there is resident support’ and does nothing to ensure residents on estates can block demolition of their homes.

The Just Space response is strongly critical but proposes a co-production approach to writing a better version.

Emily Jost on behalf of herself and the tenants and residents of Northwold Estate, Clapton, London E5 on their facebook page. or archived here by Just Space northwold Estate response regen

This collective response (also archived by Just Space) is from a cross section of academics, policy-makers, regeneration specialists, housing activists, community groups, council tenants and leaseholders, social housing providers, and other organizations who have researched and/or worked with council tenants/leaseholders, social/affordable housing, across London, or have experienced first – hand the effects of ‘estate regeneration’

London Tenants Federation LTF response to LMGPG-ER14.03.17 and an article in 24 Housing about their response and their parallel paper for tenants on how it should be done

Another critical breakdown from the 35% Campaign, set up by local campaign group the Elephant Amenity Network in response to Southwark Council’s failure to ensure that housing developments provided a minimum of 35% affordable housing, as required by the local plan.

The residents of Cressingham Gardens feel that the document fell far short from its lofty title.  They submitted strong recommendations to the Mayor.

Demolition watch: As it stands the Draft Guide will allow local authorities, housing associations and their private developer partners to continue demolishing estates, destroying communities and reducing social rented housing. By only offering recommendations without a rigorous set of commitments and conditions, the Guide will not improve the chances of schemes offering the real benefits of good quality, ‘genuinely affordable’ new homes for London.

AW_ER 1

Manifesto

We unionise all architectural workers in these beliefs:

  • We fight against the architecture that capitalises on crisis
  • We know that housing can be truly affordable
  • We oppose the eradication of bodies, memories, and landscapes
  • We believe in an equal right to housing
  • We will not be exploited to push out the exploited
  • We take responsibility for our actions
  • We acknowledge that our lives have been built on the destruction of others
  • We will not disguise destructive development with a friendly facade
  • We do not see beauty in death
  • We will destroy the image
  • We will expose the corruption
  • We refuse to be complacent or complicit
  • We speak alongside the people whose voices are systematically silenced
  • We will not weed our streets to sow the seeds of regeneration
  • We are against the architecture of control
  • We do not accept that demolition is necessary or inevitable
  • We believe in building social and economic networks before physical structures
  • Architecture is inherently a practice of change. We have the power to choose how.

FAQs

This is a working document. The answers below cover our ambition and ethos, in response to frequently asked questions. For more information please see our Manifesto.

01. How can I get involved?

¬ You can report your practice to the RIBA for not paying the [London] Living Wage, as per RIBA requirements. Email them at info@riba.org with the subject line :’[London] Living Wage – breach of Chartered Practice Criteria’. 

¬ Pass on information to us about company malpractice and how your office has been instrumental in gentrification. Disclose close relationships between developers, planning authorities and architects. Tell us about how your work has contributed to furthering the privatisation of London. Email us privately (see FAQ .02)

¬ Print out a poster and put up in your workplace, local area or university, or share online.

¬ Contribute to our survey of architectural practices. Your anonymous answers will help us to build a strong case against the work done by our offices, safeguarding the interests of workers and residents alike.

¬ Submit your questions for the debate we’re hosting this year with the heads of London’s leading regeneration firms. You may be a resident of our city or worker in one of our practices. You may be wondering what went wrong with your consultation process, or why your concerns haven’t been listened to. Together we’ll hold those with power to steer London development to account.

¬ Contact us directly at architecturalworkers@riseup.net and become involved in the longer struggle. We are looking for input on graphics, research, social media, filmography. Your help will be invaluable to communicating to a wide audience effectively, making our arguments clear and bold.

02. How do I send Architectural Workers an anonymous email?

For a back and forth exchange we recommend creating an email account using credentials that can’t be linked to your real identity. This should only take a few minutes. For a single email you can use a disposable email address using www.guerrillamail.com. Write to us at architecturalworkers@riseup.com

03. Who can join Architectural Workers?

We are particularly interested in architectural workers who work within the 6 regeneration practices we named in our Open Letter in December 2016. These are dRMM, Howarth Thompkins, HTA Design, Karakusevic Carson, MAE, PRP. Currently we are gathering information for our debate later this year. We want to know about staff treatment, ‘unspoken’ office rules, operating procedures and specific instances where residents interests have been intentionally de-prioritised.

Those working in regeneration practices not named above, or other architect’s offices are welcome to join us. You are necessary to illustrate the breadth of the industry’s failures. You may be a chartered architect unhappy with the course of your professional career in financialized home-destruction. You may be an office administrative worker who can provide key insights into company accounts and pay discrepancies.

If you don’t work in or around architecture, you are very welcome to join us. We are looking for input on graphics, research, social media, filmography. Your help will be invaluable to communicating to a wide audience effectively, making our arguments clear and bold.

We meet weekly and commit some evenings and weekends to Architectural Workers. We welcome anyone who can contribute their time and skills, on an ad hoc or more routine basis.

We welcome people from all academic and professional backgrounds. We value the input of people across gender, race, class and religious backgrounds. If you think there’s a problem with the nature of regeneration in London today, help us change it.

04. How will Architectural Workers benefit me?

We can provide advice on how to successfully talk to your employers about pay and other workers’ rights. We can help you draft emails that accurately and effectively communicate your demands. We can provide a support network of experienced practioners in the same field.

05. Why do you work for the practices you criticize?

We work at our respective practices for a number of reasons. In a pressurized industry, where housing is seen as unglamourous and formulaic, housing practices attract a mix of employees. For some, access to the job market is difficult and protracted, and housing offices have been the only work going. For others, housing represented a last bastion of state-led architecture, a mirage of socially conscious and ethical practice. The offices we work for maintain a very careful media presence, and it’s often only on working on projects within them that we’ve been able to see through the spin.

06. Why are you anonymous?

Staying anonymous allows us to voice real concerns to a public audience. We’re enabled to discuss openly what we can’t talk about in the office. Anonymity allows us to continue organising and gain knowledge within the industry we want to reform. Lastly, safeguarding our identities is key to protect our livelihoods and income.

07. Doesn’t regeneration improve ‘run-down’ estates?

Having spent years working across leading ‘regeneration’ practices, we’ve grown to be wary of the socially-led claims made by our bosses, journalists and local councils alike.

In many cases, it’s difficult to portray to a wider public the many effects of regeneration beyond the project statistics: how many homes created, or the offsetting proposed by delivering a new play facility. Such descriptions deliberately obscure the cumulative effect of gentrification, as well as the sticky processes and intentions behind ‘regeneration’ projects.  Even statistics, which might declare that a scheme is ‘100% social housing’, can be deployed in ways that disguise the real implications of the development. The purely affordable development is in fact a decant site for estate demolition, replacing homes at a rate less than 1 for 1 so that new luxury dwellings can take over the prime land.

08. What’s the alternative then?

We believe in architecture that puts the needs of people who live in our buildings front and centre. We believe that architecture shouldn’t be used as a tool of capital, making profit at the cost of the city’s residents. At the very least, architects working in estate regeneration should be doing their upmost to put the needs of people before finance.

09. What’s the long term vision for Architectural Workers?

We’re working towards unionisation of all architectural workers and shifting the public perception and architectural practice of the industry. Find our core demands in our manifesto (coming soon).